A striking original, deftly humorous collection of stories that considers the quest for truth: how we come to it or alternatively avoid it.
A fervently comic debut, The Running Trees leads readers into a series of conversations — through phonelines, acts in a play, and a rewound recording of a police interrogation — to reveal characters in fumbling bouts of brutality, reflection, isolation, and love.
The relationship between two siblings disintegrates after one asks the other for the pen; a professor and his former student get drinks years after a "romantic" encounter; a book club meets only to find that they have wildly different opinions about a new memoir about their town; and a long-haired feline contemplates existence and consciousness while his cohabitant licks his butthole.
Whimsical, unconventional, humorous, and always pitch-perfect, The Running Trees explores how we desperately try to communicate with each other amid the gaps in meaning we create.
Amber McMillan is the author of the short story collection The Running Trees, the memoir The Woods: A Year on Protection Island and the poetry collection We Can’t Ever Do This Again. She has won a Penguin Random House award for fiction and was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Maisonneuve, Arc, Global Poetry Anthology, Room, The Walrus and other publications across North America. She lives in New Brunswick.
"Piercingly sharp and spare, beautifully touching. Amber McMillian’s characters are sometimes vulnerable, sometimes sly, sometimes in love, or betrayed by love, wry, witty, or wonderfully funny. Some are very sophisticated cats. These elegant conversations are charged with that magical, mercurial quicksilver — the human voice. Stories that hit the ear drum and head straight to the heart. Joyfully experimental. "
— Lisa Moore, author of <i>Something for Everyone</i>
"A rare kind formal experimentation — overheard dialogue, speculative lists, metaphysical zingers, short fiction so natural it feels transcribed from a voice memo. Rare because you just can’t read fast enough to keep up with the appetite it stimulates. The first read is a binge, but the second is an addiction. "
— Tony Burgess, author of <i>The n-Body Problem</i>
"Energetic, often hilarious, and endlessly surprising. Reading this collection feels like eavesdropping on a series of engrossing conversations. McMillan skillfully inhabits the voices of this cast of characters, in situations that range from the suspenseful and unsettling to the deliciously absurd. The people in this book are flawed and human, prickly and curious, and remarkably distinct. Through their questions, complaints, arguments, and apologies, The Running Trees explores the intricacies of human interaction, and the difference between what we say and what we mean. "
— Sashi Bhat, author of <i>The Most Precious Substance on Earth</i>